Crown Princess Cruise Review by erdrwife: Cruising Like A Princess: 7/26/14 Alaska out of Seattle
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Cruising Like A Princess: 7/26/14 Alaska out of Seattle
I had been waiting 4 years to go to Alaska, and was thrilled when I maneuvered a Happy Birthday/Anniversary Cruise from my husband. We flew out of ROC to Minneapolis/St. Paul, then on to Seattle. Left at 7:00am, arrived in Seattle at 10:36am. No problems with connections. I made sure there were second flights available....just in case. In Seattle baggage there is a nice retired gentleman who holds up a sign with Norwegian Cruise on one side, Princess on the other. Simply find him, and follow his directions. You will leave your bags with Princess right there in baggage claim, then see them sometime in the afternoon at your door. It is worth the $48 for the transfers and transportation to the dock all day long.
Arriving between 1:00 and 2:00 is going to be the busiest time. It will take an hour. Don't worry, be happy, you are about to get pampered for 7 days. Pose for your photo, and make your way to the Horizon deck for lunch and some amazing views of Seattle. If you haven't More invested in a decent camera, and are relying on your phone, you will soon regret it. So if you want to avoid buying one from Princess or paying someone at the first Port of Call Alaskan rates, buy or borrow before you leave.
The sail away is very nice. I am going to recommend that you purchase a book down in the main Gift Shop called: The Alaskan Cruise Companion, by Rachel Cartwright. It is published by Princess and follows your itinerary with beautiful photographs and good solid information on wild life and ports. No matter which port you are docking at, or which directions you are tackling them in, you will be able to follow along. It includes a map. It just may be the best $19.95 spent on the trip. It comes with a great map.
You will receive daily lots of information outside your door. The PrincessPatter will tell you where to go and when. There are many options to choose from. I suggest taking the time to explore the ship and it's venues and acclimate yourself to everything there is available, so that you do not miss out on something that may be important to you.
Coffee Card: If you enjoy specialty coffees and tasty pastries, on the 5th floor, mid-ship is the International Cafe which sells a Coffee Card for $29.00 You will receive a punch card with 15-punches available. The coffee drinks are better than Starbucks, and the pastries delightful. I would suggest buying only one, even if you are a couple, as you can always get another if you plow through it. There is 15% gratuity added to every extra food and beverage item, this is no exception.
Soft Drink Cards: There are two kinds: One for Soda, One for Soda, Juices, Smoothies, Regular Coffee at the Cafe (Coffee is free everywhere else but there.) I believe they run $49 for the all-inclusive, $29 for the soda only. Figure out if it will benefit you are not.
Alcohol Card: $49.00 per day for just about all you can drink. You have to buy all 7-days though! Again, figure out if this is something you need to invest in. Remember you can bring one bottle of wine per adult on board. If you choose to drink it at dinner, there will be a $15 corkage fee. But if you have a special bottle and something to celebrate, (like I did....) it's no deal different than any other restaurant.
Officers: On our ship, Nicolo Bommarco was the captain. On formal night they introduce the officers with a champagne reception. You will not line up and shake their hands. The captain comes to the podium on the 6th deck and you look at him from below, or next to the elevator if you happen to be standing there. He has a thick Italian accent, talks very low, and you pretty much can't understand a word he says. (And I am Italian and have listened to this accent all my life.) He also is no Mr. (or excuse me,) Captain Personality. This is about the only time you will see him.
Naturalist: This is very important, and you don't know this unless you have sailed an Alaskan Cruise before. Princess Cruise provides a Naturalist who will be on the Cruise Ship the entire time. (Unlike the entertainment that will come and go from different ports.) Our naturalist was Michael Modzelewski. I latter learned that people book cruises specifically if he is the Naturalist provided. I soon found out why. He is an author, orator, and most importantly a twenty-year veteran of life in Alaska, including living by himself on an Island in the Inside Passage. He has a beautiful voice and presentation, along with stunning photography. You will learn everything you need to know, and he will announce wildlife through the PA system when it appears next to the ship.
Glacier Bay: The most important day on ship will be the day you go through the Glacier. Wake up early and get your camera ready. You will see things that will not be repeated anywhere else on earth. The captain will take his time to bring you to every glacier he is able to, and stay awhile so everyone may photograph it from every angle. Park rangers will come on board and guide you through the Bay. Get a souvenir paper with a date stamp at the ranger station which you will find at the front of the ship by the pool.
PA System. There are no warning bells, you only hear it in the hallway or balcony, if you happen to notice someone is talking and go outside to listen. Plan accordingly or you may miss things.
Announcements/Disembarking at Ports: Again, you will arrive to port and pretty much not know what is going on unless you happen to be in the hallway when they start announcing you can disembark. This often happened different that what is stated in the Patter, sometimes an hour early (good) sometimes a half-hour late (bad). The line is long, and they stop to photograph you. You often don't know which floor to get off of. It is usually mid-ship, somewhere between 4 and 6. Sometimes it is 2 floors. That is good, as the line won't be as long. Make sure you read the sign near the exit telling you when All-Aboard time is, because they DO NOT announce it or remind you. It is up to you to make it back to the ship a half-hour before they leave port. They do not tell you this, so pay attention! I confirmed with other passengers whether it was just me who seemed to be clueless, but others agreed this information was not disseminated well.
Entertainment: Well it was no Disney, but it certainly was enjoyable. The comedians were great, and there are plenty of things to do. If you are complaining that there is nothing to do on board, then truly it is your own fault. So relax and go read a book.
Dining: If you have a large group, choose a designated time and get to know your Waiter and Assistant, it will be great fun. We chose Anytime Dining as there were just the two of us. On the second formal night, (there will be two, bring nice clothes) we chose Bernini and made reservations. As a result, the handsome Romanian Maitre' D gave us a seat by the window and introduced us to Lawrence, my pick for employee of the month. Lawrence was from India. and as a waiter could not do enough for us. Ask for him, you will not be disappointed. As for the rest of the regular dining areas, the staff was excellent, the food was a bit salty. We dined at the Crown Grill one evening, $20 additional per person, very nice. We also had lunch there one day, the fish and chips were excellent. We also ate at the "Crab Shack" one evening. Again, an additional $20. For that $20 they partition off the back of the Horizon Court, put some brown paper tablecloths on the tables, have the servers don Greek Fishermen outfits and proceed to serve what appeared to be Snowcrab legs, not the large Alaskan King legs you will get at port. This will be accompanied with the music provided to the entire ship, which is usually old bad European Italian music. I am not kidding. (Again, I am Italian...I know good Italian music.) Definitely stop at Tracy's Crab Shack in Juneau and skip this tragedy. The Maitre' D enquired as to how we enjoyed the meal, and as a result of our helpful comments he "comped" the $20 up-charge.
Lounges: Make sure to make the climb to Skywalker's Nightclub. In the day it is a great place to escape and read, at night it is a fun place to whirl your date around the dance floor.
Photos: It is clearly 2002 on board the Golden Princess, and there is nothing green going on in the Photography & Video Gallery. They will take many shots of you, some photographers understanding lighting and developing more than others. They will develop everything, whether your eyes are closed or not. They will display everything, whether you can find it or not. There is no face-recognition software, and only one display computer to search for if you are looking for something you don't see or couldn't find displayed. There are no packages. You can not pay a fee to have all photos of you downloaded to a jump drive or CD. The best you will get is the ability to pay $10 for a digital file, after you pay $19.95 for the print. Good photos can be had, but you will have to work for it.
Art Gallery: They are all prints. Remember that. If you see something you like and have to have, that is fine, but you are not getting a one-of-a-kind.
Spa: Typical Cruise ship services. We enjoyed excellent massages. On the first day they offer specials, take advantage of it if you will be using their services. Also, days in port are usually half price. Inquire within.
Final embarkation was silent. Which means you are on your honor to depart on the time given by your luggage tag. You can sign up for early disembarking, and they even have a service where you can again give them your luggage and see it again when you arrive home. Sweet!
We thoroughly enjoyed our cruise, and would do it again Save the Daily Princess Patter as a great souvenir. Less
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Cabin review: A704
This room was a great location. It is the highest room deck and has a roof over it so that you can go out in the misty rain, of which there may be a lot of. It is close to the elevator, but you hear no traffic outside the door. It is one floor and a quick walk away from the Aft outside bar. It is a quick walk up the elevator to the buffet line. It is cozy, yet roomy as the closet is set on the other side of a wall along with the bathroom. Large closet. The steward makes up your room at least twice a day, and gives you chocolates each evening. While I had read that others had trouble with the shower curtain, we really did not. Some people bring binder clips and clip to the bottom of the curtain to keep it in place. I truly enjoyed this room and location.
Port and Shore Excursions
At the Kiosk outside the trip, you can buy a shuttle/tram ticket. From $45-$50, depending on how well you bargain. The Shuttle ($10 if you do not want the tram ride, takes 20 minutes) will take you to Mendenhall Glacier. You can pay $3 and look out the Observatory, but that is kind of silly since it is not exactly as close as you can get by walking. We took the 3-mile East Glacier Trail. It takes 2 or more hours. There are signs posted on how to follow it. We then walked up to the Glacier. There is another 45-minute walk to a falls closer to the Glacier. You may see bald eagles there, we did. The shuttle runs every 20-minutes, and while you are waiting there is a small pavilion in the back of the parking lot where you can see salmon.
Mount Roberts Tramway
We had our eye on the weather all day, and miraculously it cleared around 6:30pm and we went up the Robertson Tram. Great views, great place for photographs. More hiking trails if desired. Also, there is a rescued bald eagle, and a local Tlinget Indian carving a Totem Pole.
Misty Fjords Flightseeing
After much research, I decided that this is where I would pay the bucks to see Alaska from air. We were blessed by blue skies. Skies that they had not seen for 6-weeks, so beware! We saw fjords, landed on one, followed glaciers, and saw peaks that the pilot even rarely sees due to the amazing weather that day. I cannot explain how much this was worth the price. Plan on at least $250 per person per hour, second hour cheaper.
You can book this through your ship or independently. You will take a one-hour boat ride, past Haines to Davidson Glacier, a bus drive through the woods, a canoe ride to the Glacier, and if it allows, (like it did for us....) a walk on the Glacier itself. Great guides, great fun. Highly recommended.
White Pass Scenic Railway
All the research recommends that you book through the cruise line, which we did. And so glad we did so. We took the late train as we did an earlier 5-hour excursion. I also read that the weather tends to clear in the afternoon, which it also did. The trains were running late, but since we booked through the cruise ship, they held the ship for us. I was the shortest route, round trip. Bring food, they provide water. Excellent trip, you see a lot of things you may have read about if you are smart enough to read Alaska by James Michner before you ever get near the cruise ship. Beautiful scenery, comfortable train, great guides.
I am still trying to find out why they included this. We could have stayed in Ketchikan longer! You arrive at 7pm, half of the town is shut down. A $30 cab ride will allow you to see the major sights. Chinatown is pretty big, and Ocean Garden at the corner of Fisgars came highly recommended by cab driver Bob and now us. Great meal. Walked to Government where there are pubs and restaurants. Located one without a loud band and had a cocktail. Walked back to pier, allow at least 45minutes, and saw the famed and over-rated lit up Empress Hotel and Government Building. Came close to missing the boat along with a few others as the map has you take the long walk around instead of cutting through some streets. Better to take a cab once you are at the lit up hotel. Went on an Alaskan cruise that ended up in Canada...go figure.